Molly Yeh Shares Her Top Tips For Delicious Food Favorites - Exclusive Interview

2022-10-02 00:19:59 By : Ms. Alexia Yang

You know Molly Yeh. If you don't, knowing that she has a rooster called Tofu on her Minnesota farm, a passion for deep dish pizza that survived her stint in New York (studying at Juilliard!), and a husband nicknamed "Eggboy" gives you the facts you need to say you know her. Decider once claimed that her Food Network show, "Girl Meets Farm," was the best thing to come out of the channel "in ages" — which probably means since it discovered the incontrovertibly addictive "Barefoot Contessa." Why not "The Prairie Woman," you ask? Yeh does live on a farm in the middle of nowhere (i.e., East Grand Forks) and is about to open up a restaurant in the town, á la Ree Drummond. Her vibe, however, is much closer to Ina Garten's ironic fairy-godmother-of-the-home-kitchen spiel than Drummond's down-to-earth cowboy candor.  

Clearly, Molly Yeh needs a nickname. Perhaps that will happen now that her newest book, "Home Is Where The Eggs Are," is out. The title is most likely part homage to her husband, Nick; we also suspect it has something to do with her famous matzo scrambled eggs, aka matzo brei. If you've never combined eggs and matzo before, don't fear — Yeh gave us the keys in an exclusive interview, along with unmissable BLT advice, some unexpected smoothie favorites, deep dish pizza wisdom, and the inside scoop on her upcoming restaurant.

Congrats on your new cookbook! In it, you talk about Nadiya Hussain as an influence. Which other chefs inspired your cooking style and recipes?

Cal Peternell, Deb Perelman, Julia Turshen, Hetty McKinnon, my mom, my mother-in-law, [and my] my grandma.

Small kids have changed the way you cook — which is reflected in the recipes in this cookbook. Anyone with kids knows how hard it is to stir a sauce or watch the oven with a small kid in your arms. Cooking, in this context, can often become a chore instead of a joy — what's your advice for new parents struggling with this?

Go easy on yourself. It's okay to buy the pre-shredded cheese and a rotisserie chicken. Get the cans that don't require can openers. There will be a time when you more consistently have two hands to shred cheese and that will be bittersweet, but you can have meltier cheese then. Also, make things in big batches so that even when you don't have the bandwidth to cook, you can still eat well.

You're a huge fan of "The Bachelorette." If you were to cook the contestants a romantic dinner, which of your recipes would you select?

Literally anything that they would actually eat. It drives me bonkers that every single one-on-one date ends with a dinner scene where they don't ever eat. The crispy coconut rice with shrimp and chocolate-covered grapes for dessert strike me as things that people would be able to eat while maintaining deep conversation and a high level of attractiveness.

You hadn't tried a hotdish until you moved to Minnesota. Can you give beginners your top three tips for cooking one?

Eat it with ketchup — it cools it down [and] adds necessary acidity. Crisp the tots well. You won't burn them, so don't be afraid to bake higher up in your oven at a higher temp than what the tot bag tells you. And lean into the leftovers. It's even better the second day.

You're a big proponent of cast iron skillets, but they can be a fickle friend if you don't know how to treat them right. Do you have any cast iron skillet care tips to share with us? How can we ensure that ours are always non-stick?

Marry someone who will take care of your cast iron pans for you! Always make sure to dry them really well after washing — I do this by drying with a towel and then heating them on the stove to make sure they're extra dry — and then coat them with a little oil.

In your cookbook, you write that "it's rare to find a productive cheese and chicken relationship." What other ingredients will you (almost) never pair together? Why?

I'm generally pretty open to trying most combinations, and I don't want to yuck anyone's yum, but sometimes I feel that avocados get treated incorrectly. Their texture isn't great in anything warm, like a grilled cheese or other hot sandwich, and I feel like adding avocado to a BLT is trying to fix something that isn't broken. A peak-season BLT is perfect — it doesn't need avocado.

Given the title of your new cookbook, we'd be remiss not to ask about eggs. Your version of scrambled eggs involves folding softened matzo into them to avoid the "mushy" texture. The combination has become "one of your top five favorite foods of all time." What's the key to cooking eggs with matzo, and what are your preferred hot sauces for scrambled eggs? Where else should we be using matzo in everyday recipes?

The key to cooking eggs with matzo is to not soak the matzo for too long — otherwise, it gets way too mushy. Add a medium-heavy hand with the salt [and] eat out of a bowl in big sloppy bites. I like Tabasco ... and ketchup! I also regularly eat matzo with PB and J, and matzo with mayonnaise and swiss cheese.

You're a hot dog lover. Is a hot dog a sandwich? State your case. And what's the number one mistake people are making when they cook hot dogs? In the cookbook, you put hot dogs on top of a salad, so what are other creative ways we can work with hot dogs in the kitchen?

It's totally a sandwich, just like a falafel in a pita is a sandwich. The best way to cook a hot dog is to get crispy edges. Split it in half, let it get some color — don't sleep on this. Other than hot dog salad, my other favorite hot dog things are pigs in blankets, pigs in blankets chopped on top of a salad, and salad on top of hot dogs in a tortilla or lefse.

In your cookbook, you admit to adding things like cake and cookies into your smoothies and say that a blueberry cake smoothie with "hidden kale" is your favorite. First of all, how did you come up with that recipe? Are there any other unusual ingredient combinations that you've found work in smoothies?

I discovered early in my smoothie journey that you can pile kale into a smoothie and not taste it, so on days when I feel like I need extra greens but don't feel like eating them, I treat myself like a toddler and sneak them into a smoothie that's sweetened with ... whatever baked good is lying around in my kitchen. I love adding halva to my smoothies, and I also love making an orange dreamsicle-type smoothie with oranges, carrots, pineapple, and orange blossom water.

As a believer in deep dish pizza, and someone who makes pizza for date night every Friday, can you talk more about the art of "matching ingredients to the heftiness of the dough"? What's your advice for ensuring that the deep dish pizza we're making at home doesn't come out soggy?

Baking in cast iron will help prevent that sogginess, and also, don't feel the need to overdo it with the sauce and cheese. Baking at the bottom of your oven will help the bottom get crisp. Also, top with things that can handle a lot of time in the oven while the crust crisps up.

You spend quite a bit of time talking about the art of salting a dish — and argue that you can never under-educate yourself re: the art of salting. Talk us through your salting journey. When did you learn to "salt every layer" of a dish instead of just at the beginning or the end? Also, how do you fix a dish if you've over-salted it?

My mom instilled that in me from a young age. I've always known the importance of salt, but getting to know my tastebuds and observing how they've changed is another element that impacts salting. I used to be a more-is-more person, but in recent years I've backed off, fine-tuned when I lean into the salt and when I don't want too much.

If you've over-salted a dish, there are a few different things you can do, depending on what it is. For soups, add chopped potato or dilute with unsalted stock or dairy. For other dishes, you can balance with more acid or sugar, or something creamy like yogurt.

What are your Rosh Hashanah meal traditions? Can you give our readers any tips for creative takes on traditional dishes? Also, you've mastered the art of making good challah. What's your advice for learning to work well with sticky dough?

We pick apples from our trees, play with challah dough, make a big pot of chicken noodle soup, and usually add matzo balls. Enjoy the natural beauty of the ingredients that this season is good at: apples, squash, dark greens. Dust challah dough with flour as needed!

You're opening a new restaurant in East Grand Forks that promises Scandinavian cuisine and local ingredients. Can you give us details as to menu items that customers can look forward to? Which local ingredients can we expect to see most in the restaurant's menu? Can you walk us through the restaurant's decor and explain the inspiration behind it?

Local ingredients we're using include wild rice, walleye, whitefish, beans, eggs, chicken, beef, wheat, sugar, cheese ... There are so many amazing ingredients in this region. Some of my favorite menu items include the wild rice burger, lefse dogs, cardamom rolls, and an array of thick, crusty toast with delicious toppings — no avocado toast since it's not local, but we do have an excellent bean toast. The decor is simple, warm, farmhouse-inspired, and welcoming. We wanted to maintain the specialness of the space from when it was Whitey's and give it a fresh coat of paint.

Check out Molly Yeh's new cookbook here. Be sure to follow Yeh on Instagram for recipe inspiration and life updates, or catch up with her family on Food Network's "Girl Meets Farm."

This interview was edited for clarity.